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"I suspect that religion is a necessary evil in the childhood of our particular species. And that's one of the interesting things about contact with other intelligences: we could see what role, if any, religion plays in their development."
- Arthur C. Clarke

Pocket Nucleo-Bulb  
  A nuclear-powered pocket-sized flashlight.  

The mayor of the Foundation, Salvor Hardin, was having trouble with those little monarchies that tended to spring up as the influence of Trantor went down. At this point in the plan, he needed to demonstrate the value of affordable nuclear power to the Prince Regent Wienis.

He [Wienis] cast one look out of the window. The city was pitch-black. From below there were the hoarse confused cries of the mob. Only toward the fight, where the Argolid Temple stood was there illumination. He swore angrily, and dragged the king away.

Wienis burst into his chambers, the five guardsmen at his heels. Lepold followed, wide-eyed, scared speechless.

"Hardin," said Wienis, huskily, "you are playing with forces too great for you."

The mayor ignored the speaker. In the pearly light of the pocket nucleo-bulb at his side, he remained quietly seated, a slightly ironic smile on his face.

"Good morning, your majesty," he said to Lepold. "I congratulate you on your coronation."

From Foundation, by Isaac Asimov.
Published by Doubleday in 1951
Additional resources -

Isaac Asimov did not invent the flashlight; that honor was reserved for the original owner of the American Eveready Battery company, Joshua Lionel Cowen. He had an idea for a decorative lighting fixture for potted plants - a metal tube with a bulb and a battery. One of his salesmen, Conrad Hubert, took over the idea and the company and ran with it, selling the world's first flashlight in 1898.

And Cowen? He was one of those people who seemed to invent something other than what he originally had in mind. He was working on creating a store window display with a little battery powered car that would go round and round on a little circular track. It turned out that people wanted the car and the track more than what they displayed.

Joshua Lionel Cowen went on to found the Lionel Model Train company.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Foundation
  More Ideas and Technology by Isaac Asimov
  Tech news articles related to Foundation
  Tech news articles related to works by Isaac Asimov

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